Behind The Lens

February 3, 2016

I often post only finished work on my blog, social media, and my website. Sometimes I’ll post some fun selfies and behind the scenes photos from shoots!  But something I haven’t done before is to post a before and after….me in action and then the finished product!

So today I’m going to show you!  You can usually find me laying on the ground, squished into small spaces, standing on my tiptoes, or climbing on top of things to get the photo that I want and make it perfect.  It’s hard to explain what goes into making the perfect image, but my brain sees things in a certain way, and I know it when I see it. All my clients know that when I squeal, I’ve created something I’m really excited about!  It’s usually accompanied by some jumping up and down and high-fiving my clients.

Some things that I look for are straight horizon lines, speckled light from leaves, and any distracting elements like exit signs, wayward tree branches etc.  Light is king, and I’ll often move either my clients or myself to get it just right.

I was inspired to write this post after talking with a company called Light – it’s a new camera technology that has just hit the market, and I can’t wait to try it.  What you don’t see in these behind the scenes photos is all the gear I carry around on a wedding, and I’d love to see how this new compact camera could fit into my workflow.  I’m really interested in it for travel photography too – I’m hoping to get my hands on one and check it out!

Here are a few images from last year! I hope you enjoy the peek behind the lens with me!

– Haley

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Haley in Africa

“So, how was Africa?”

The question I heard most often after my trip was the most difficult one to answer.  In normal casual conversation, my answer would be too long, and my short answer never felt sufficient.

In August of 2015, in the middle of my busiest wedding season of the past decade, I traveled to Ghana to take photos for a non-profit organization.  I was gone for a total of 10 days including travel and a day stopover in Amsterdam.  To describe the trip as a whirlwind would be an understatement!

 

So many words come to mind when I describe my experience in Ghana, but the best way I can explain how I feel after my trip is GRATEFUL.  I live a comfortable life. I work hard, I have the luxury of being able to travel and socialize, I have a fairly low cost of living, and I have family and friends who love and support me. Going to the heart of the poorest neighbourhood in the capital city of Accra shocked me, and all I could feel was gratitude for the life I have.

I think that in North America we know that poverty exists in the world, we hear about third world countries, we see movies and TV shows and infomercials, and even photos like mine.  Until I physically stood there, and met people, and witnessed an entire neighbourhood getting their ‘clean’ water with a bucket out of a dirty hole in the ground I don’t think I really realized what it meant.  And even after seeing my images, I don’t expect any of you to truly feel what any of us felt by going there.

The truest statement I can make about my experience in Africa is that I felt helpless, and I wanted to do more.  Here is a little bit of information about my trip, and what you can do to help if you are interested.

 

I went to Ghana with a non-profit called Truth X Vision. This organization was started with the goal of helping local Ghanaians to help themselves through micro-farming projects and clean water drilling.

There is much more information on the website than I can explain, and I implore you to visit it.  What I like most about Truth X Vision is that it embraces the “teach a man to fish” mentality rather than just providing handouts to the poor.  Teaching people to help themselves with support and supplies is the best possible approach, in my opinion, as it is the most sustainable.

My goal through my trip was two-fold; one was to highlight the actual work of the volunteers who had traveled there, and the other was to showcase Ghana as a country.  While some of the emotions that I felt while I was there were negative and depressing, I was able to see the beauty of Ghana, the warmth of the people, and the natural rugged beauty of the terrain and wildlife.  I had the opportunity to go on a safari as well as exploring some of the jungle areas.  Being able to dive into the neighbourhoods and interact with locals was a wonderful experience.

Truth X Vision plans ‘Mission Month’ where volunteers can travel to Ghana to support the projects there, and partake in some tourism as well. I can honestly say that I want to go back. I want to help, and I want to continue my experience.

So how was Africa? It was heartbreaking, primitive, welcoming, eye-opening, and shocking. And I am so grateful that I was able to go.

 

I covered a lot in a few days, so I’m going to break the post up into a few parts! I kept a notebook on the trip to help me remember everything.

 

 

Part 1: Safari in Mole National Park & Northern Ghana

On my first day we woke up at 4 am and immediately piled on to a ‘bus’ (basically crammed 10 of us into a mini van) and drove for 12 hours North. Along the way we passed a lot of towns and villages and drove over many many speed bumps.  As someone who gets motion sick at the best of times, I can’t say the drive was my favourite, but I was fascinated by the scenery.

I slept a lot along the way but every time I opened my eyes it was like we hadn’t moved. Streams of people walking along the roadside, women carrying huge bowls and baskets on their heads, and often babies on their backs, street markets, goats and dogs running in the streets, half-finished buildings. For hours and hours.  As we got further North there were herds of cattle and the villages became further apart. There were fewer cars.  We ate plantain chips and ice cream offered to us by street vendors selling them at the car window. We arrived at Mole National Park at sunset.

The safari was cool, honestly not quite what I had pictured from other photos I had seen, but this isn’t the Serengeti!  I still got up close and personal with an elephant which was amazing.

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northern ghana

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african village

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african monkey

mole national park safari

african watering hold

african elephant

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warthogs

mole national park

truth x vision mission month

 

After the safari we drove to Tamale and shopped in a street market, and enjoyed a fun dinner. I discovered the joys of drinking alcohol that’s served in plastic bags…the gin there is pretty strong!  There were a few things along this trip I can’t believe I got used to, like cold showers (sometimes just using a bucket), female urinals, exposed wiring in just about every room, and ‘wildlife’ like snails, cockroaches, and bees.

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african female urinal

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tamale ghana street market

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Part 2: Village Drill in Korlebu, Accra

This neighbourhood in the capital city of Accra has about 2000 people, and only a small stream as a clean water supply for the whole community. Truth X Vision is installing a drill to provide clean water to the community in the middle of the neighbourhood courtyard.  It’s a project that employs local Ghanaians as well.  This is a pilot project, that will hopefully be expanded. When I was there, the drill was just being installed.

The neighbourhood children were quickly fascinated with me and took me on a tour. One girl took me to her ‘house’ which was basically an open-air porch. The number of people and the poverty in the area was just astonishing. Some of the smaller children were touching my skin and hair in amazement.

The drink water out of plastic bags and just toss the empty bags on the ground. There is so much garbage everywhere.

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After working on the drill we did some sightseeing in Accra, and went to Independence Square, built in 1957 when Ghana became democratic.  Then to a mausoleum of the first president of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

 

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We visited the Jamestown lighthouse and encountered an art festival with thousands of people crammed into the high street. We could barely get through.  There were a lot of photographers, musicians, and artists on the streets. The energy was amazing.

The lighthouse is in an area called Jamestown or ‘British Accra’, established in the 1800s.  A lot of the old buildings are still there but haven’t been maintained. It’s right on the waterfront but unlike any waterfront I’ve ever seen. Shacks and garbage is the best way to sum it up, although I have to admit it was eerily beautiful.

Afterwards we walked back through the back streets of Accra and I felt like crying. So much sheer poverty, and children everywhere with absolutely nothing, crying and begging. People cooking in pots over fires on the street, and living in makeshift structures.  So many people that it’s almost impossible to do anything. I just felt helpless.

jamestown accra

accra art festival

accra street children

accra harvest festival

jamestown accra

accra street festival

dpwntown accra

jamestown lighthouse

jamestown accra beach

ghana ocean

accra shacks

accra beach garbage

 

Part 3: Farm in A Barrel

We started the day visiting the church that is partnered with Truth X Vision, with a lot of singing and dancing!  A few members of the congregation have been using Farm in a Barrel and after the service we got to visit two of the properties.  At the time of my visit they were having some issues with bird flu, so we didn’t actually get to see any chickens, but the project has been working well and was set to be back running in a couple of weeks. Afterwards the team constructed a new one!  This is a pilot project, and there is a lot of information on the Truth X Vision website.  It helps support local farmers and local families.

accra church

farm in a barrel

farm in a barrel

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ghana farm in a barrel

chicken coop

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Part 4: Kakum Rainforest and Cape Coast

I still remember the fresh papaya in a plastic bag that we bought from a vendor at a random highway intersection. Breakfast! We did a hike through Kakum rainforest on a hanging bridge canopy built by Canadians in the 90s.

kakum rainforest

kakum reserve

ghana rainforest

ghana insect

kakum tree house

african frog

ghana bamboo

Our trip to Cape Coast was brief, since my flight was leaving that evening.  We visited Cape Coast Castle, which is one of several “slave castles” built along the coast and used for the slave trade to North America in the 18th century. At any given time, about 1300 slaves would be held in the most atrocious conditions in the dungeons beneath the castle, chained together in a line. They would be loaded on to ships and sent to America. It was an absolutely sobering experience to stand in the dungeons and learn about the gruesome history of this place.
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male slave dungeon

male slave dungeon

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cape coast slave castle

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Some final thoughts…the last thing I wrote about Ghana in my notebook is that it feels like a country at the beginning of its life. I’m lucky to live where I do in such a developed world with all of the amenities and opportunities I have. The people of Ghana that I met are friendly, welcoming, spiritual, and hard working.  Going through these photos and re-living the experience solidified my desire to go back.

I don’t have the words to say thank you to everyone on the trip, they all know what an amazing experience it was. I would like to thank Kris, who started Truth X Vision and I randomly met in Maui, for reaching out and asking me to come. For having the faith that my wedding photography skills would translate into this project. And for becoming a valuable friend. I can honestly say when I left Ghana I didn’t think I had very many usable images, but after letting the experience sink in for a few months, I’m proud of everything I’m showing here.

If you made it to the end of this post you get a gold star! Thanks for reading along!

– Haley


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  1. Allie posted the following on December 30, 2015 at 7:02 pm.

    Wonderful stuff! I absolutely love the photo of the three children in color! That’s stunning :-) I also love the elephants :-)

  2. Deborah Parr posted the following on January 16, 2016 at 5:51 pm.

    Your true to life photos and words ring true that we are fortunate to live in a developed world with all of the amenities and opportunities … we forget how fortunate we truly are.
    As always, your photos bring life and as always, I thank you for sharing your gift with us!!!
    Hugs, Deborah

  3. Haley Shandro posted the following on January 17, 2016 at 7:38 pm.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read it Deborah! I appreciate it!


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Merry Christmas everybody!!!

I’ve been saving this post to be my last of 2015 because it was one of the highlights of my summer.  Katrina and Rich had an English garden-inspired wedding at the Hotel Macdonald and everything was glamorous and perfect. Katrina has been planning her wedding since she was a young girl, and it was fabulous to see all of her dreams come together for her special day.

Also exciting (and another reason I had to wait to put up this blog post) – their wedding was featured on WedLuxe!

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Katrina is SO bubbly, and she and Richard are incredibly in love.  Instead of my usual post, I’m going to let Katrina do the talking about their wedding!

The morning

To keep with tradition, we kissed each other goodnight of Friday and said “see you at the church”. Richard stayed at the Hotel MacDonald and Katrina stayed at her parents. In the morning, the girls woke up to an amazing breakfast spread that her auntie and mom’s best friend made. To calm the nerves, the girls huddled around and said a prayer to help both Richard and I focus on the magnitude of the day and help us live in the moment. The girls sipped champagne mimosas while getting their makeup and hair done in the kitchen. The girls day started much earlier then the boys. The boys grabbed an early lunch in their room and then got dressed. A little less chaotic. They even had time to take some shots around the hotel. Both of us wrote letters to each others parents, thanking them for raising us and instilling values that each one of us treasures in each other. Also, we wrote letters to one another. Thank goodness Katrina read these letters prior to makeup application. All morning both of us felt like it was Christmas morning and you just can’t wait to get downstairs to open presents.

The ceremony

The ceremony to us was the most important part of the day. After all, this is where we became husband and wife. We wanted our guests to see, hear and feel our love throughout the ceremony. We had an amazing string quartet play beautiful songs that we both connected with. My mom, baba and gido, ring bearers, groomsmen and Richard and his parents walked down to Pachelbel Canon in D. Then the flowergirls, bridesmaids, and Katrina and her dad walked down the aisle to “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. When this song started to play, both Richard and Katrina were both overwhelmed with emotion. This was it. This was the moment we started our next chapter: marriage. This song also has meaning as after Richard proposed, Katrina said a “a thousand times yes”. The church was absolutely stunning. The aisle covered in handmade green garlands that had eucalyptus in them. The scent was unreal. During the whole ceremony, Richard and I could stop staring at each other – our eyes were locked on one another. It felt like we were the only people in the room – however, now looking back at our wedding video the place was packed. The readings, prayers, sermon were all perfect. When the priest said, “I now pronounce you husband and wife, Richard you may now kiss your bride”, we felt a surge of energy and locked lips. Meanwhile “A Beautiful Day” started to play. We were on cloud 9 walking out of that church. Such an amazing vibe.

Reception

All week the weather was calling for rainstorms and lightening, but the day was absolutely perfect. We got beautiful pictures of the big Alberta blue sky and then some amazing stormclouds in the background. We were so fortunate. We were able to have our champagne and cocktails out on the terrace that overlooked the entire River Valley. As we had a lot of people traveling to Alberta for the wedding, we wanted to ensure they got to soak up the beautiful landscape. The cocktails were a blast.

We chose to sit at a sweetheart table. When Richard and I go for dinners we always sit side-by-side. It felt only natural we sat this way at our wedding. Also, we chose to have our family and bridal party in front of us at their own tables, so that we could have some time during dinner to connect. This was really important and I think it’s one of the reasons we felt the day didn’t fly by. We got to recap our mornings, how we felt walking down the aisle, during the ceremony.

The speeches were fabulous. They made the whole room crack up laughing.

We then kicked off the dance with our first dance, which when splendid. I guess our 15 min rehearsal of playing the new Cinderella movie and trying to replicate the dance while our nieces and nephews danced around too did the trick. There was not a dry eye in the room during the father daughter dance. Such a special moment.

The band was incredible. 8 piece ensemble that played awesome music right up to till the end. You know it’s a great party when the dance floor is full at 1 in the morning. The party was so much fun. We even had wedding crashers!

We ended the night with Richard sweeping me up and carrying me into our room. The whole day was everything I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little girl – a magical environment with love oozing from everyone.

 

 

 

 

All of the fabulous vendors!

Wedding Planner: Cocktails and Details
Ceremony: St. George Anglican Church
Reception: Fairmont Hotel Macdonald
Stationery: Pinkpolka Invitations and Stationery
Floral Design: FaBLOOMosity
Wedding Gown: Hayley Paige from Delica Bridal
Bridesmaids Dresses: Jenny Yoo
Formal Wear: SUITS by Curtis Eliot
Makeup: Ashley Saskiw of East West Beauty Collective
Hair: Terwillegar Hair
Decor Rentals: Elegant Touches and Chic Boutique Rentals
Cake: Carlene Saskiw
Entertainment: Side One
Cinematography: Jaymarie Studios

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Extra special thanks to my second shooter Jesse for being generally AWESOME!

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I want to congratulate Wendy from Tickled Floral on the Grand Opening of her new store in Sherwood Park!  Her business started 5 years ago as a home business, and now has grown and moved into a new space. I’ve worked with Wendy on several weddings, and it was great to celebrate with her!  Her open house was planned by FPK Events, and everyone really enjoyed the Christmas spirit!  Check out her new location in Sherwood Park at #165, 130 Broadway Boulevard.  Check out the feature on her shop on the Blush Magazine blog!

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I’ve been working with Sunita and the fabulous ladies behind Sen Studios for nearly a decade now, and when she called me to do a quick photo shoot to showcase some of her artists’ work, I jumped at the chance. Combine that with absolutely stunning Indian bridal designs courtesy of Anika Designs, and we had a dream shoot!

A lot of people know about Sen Studios/Sunita/the Gill sisters, and I encourage anyone looking for bridal makeup (including specifically Indian/ethnic weddings) to check out the entire team of Sen Studios  – they all do an incredible job!  Thanks to our models for being so fabulous!

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Shakti Jewelry

December 22, 2015

Sarah, the designer and owner of Shakti Jewelry, makes gorgeous jewelry our of precious stones and gold. Her designs are unique and inspired. Product photography is new for me, but I have had plenty of practice with all of the details and rings that I shoot for weddings. I enjoyed the shoots and working with Sarah and look forward to seeing what she creates in the future.

– Michael

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The Agerbak family wanted to do something a little bit different for their family Christmas card this year and have some fun!!  Don’t worry – no Agerbaks were harmed in the making of this Christmas card. Happy Holidays everyone!!!

– Haley

 

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I was lucky enough to get to do a creative portrait shoot for Noah’s bar mitzvah, followed by a family portrait session. What they wanted was to do remakes of classic movie posters. After some back and forth and suggestions from both sides we came up with some great selections. I hope that you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed creating them!

– Michael

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Jet Label Christmas Party

December 21, 2015

What a great way to celebrate. The employees of Jet Label of Edmonton are treated to an annual Christmas party. The company serves up food and drink to keep everyone in good spirits. Santa even dropped by for a visit and gave presents to all of the children.

Merry Christmas to the employees and family of Jet Label!

(Special appearance by Kelsie from Diamond Cake Photography and her super cute family!)

– Michael

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I love shooting proposals. They have an element of surprise that is different than anything else that we take pictures of. This winter, Pritam called me planned to propose to Sharron at the Luminaria Festival held at the Devonian Botanic Garden His plan was to propose under a large tree lit with beautiful lanterns.

It was a gorgeous setting with candle lit paths. When the moment arrived, Sharron said yes and they are now engaged!

Congratulations Pritam and Sharron!

– Michael

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